Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tastes of Oz: Burgers

So, contrary to popular belief, I haven't joined a cult or become a hermit. I just got back from a three week trip to AUSTRALIA, where I visited my older sister and her fiancé, who are living over there and teaching! We journeyed into the Outback without internet or other amenities (i.e. showers) for two weeks, which explains my lack of posting. However, I swear, there was no shortage of eating on the trip. And now, I'm really glad, and really excited to be back!

Between the jet lag and the serious extent of field research (AKA stuffing my face), I didn't even know where to begin writing my first post. Since we were out camping, with limited resources, the kitchen victories were few and far between. Not only that, but because this is chiefly a cooking blog, I wasn't too sure about penning restaurant reviews or idle storytelling. I didn't just want to write about the food in Australia, I wanted to give y'all something you could DIY! Your own taste of Oz... So.

Let's talk about BURGERS! 


Down in Australia right now, it's wintertime. While most Aussies were turning to stews, curries and hearty meat pies to keep them warm in their adorable, snow-less version of the coldest time of year, my fellow Canadians and I were still looking for summer barbecue fare. Behold, the glorious hamburger! Just like us regular fast food noshing North Americans, Australians embrace the burger as a culinary phenomenon, and boy, they do it well. Beef, lamb and even kangaroo burgers make regular appearances on Aussie menus. While we sampled burgers-a-plenty on the trip (obviously in the name of science), I tried to keep notes on some of the more distinct flavours we came across. How can YOU get a bite of Australia at your next BBQ? Read on.

#1. The Aussie Burger. 

Burger patty (your choice) + roasted beetroot + fried egg + back bacon. These three toppings make regular appearances on burgers EVERYWHERE down under. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but the tang of the beetroot, cut with the silky, saucy yolk of the fried egg, and the salt of the back bacon work really well together. Something I discovered at my first meal on the day we arrived in Melbourne.

#2. The Nacho Cheese Burger.  

Burger patty (your choice) + original Doritos + shredded iceberg lettuce + melted cheese + salsa & sour cream sauce. One thing Australian hamburgers have in common with the North American variety is that they're looking to serve up something indulgent, weird and delicious too. We were driving to Clare Valley for an afternoon of wine touring, when Steve (my sister's fiancé) and I got into a huge discussion about food. Big, greasy, over the top, dirty diner food. By the time we stopped in the next town, we had talked ourselves into a salivating starvation. We NEEDED something to eat. I popped into a bakery and ended up getting a Peppersteak pie, only to go next door to join the others at their fast food joint. They were noshing on giant burgers & crispy fries.
Long story short, I ended up eating the pie I had bought AND the Nacho Cheese burger, because I was told that I NEEDED to try it. NEEDED with a capital "WRAP YOUR FACE AROUND THIS, IT IS SO GOOD-- you need to eat more or you're going to get plastered at light speed this afternoon."
I had to take my glasses off, it was so huge and so messy.  Dear people who made this burger: you were doing it right.

#3. The Steve Special. 

One of the best burgers I ate on the didn't come from a restaurant or even an Australian at all. It came from Steve, who masterminded this recipe some time ago and then made it for us one night at a campsite in Alice Springs. The savoury, well seasoned bite of meat in these burgers gives way to a creamy, rich, cream cheese center, spiced up with a zip of freshly chopped jalapenos.

Note: This recipe is rustic at best, so use every kitchen skill and instinct you have to make it happen. COURAGE! It will be WELL worth it

STEVE's Spectacular Super Secret Surprise Burgers

Makes 5-6 Burger patties


1 package lean ground beef
2 eggs
secret sauce of your choice (i.e. bbq)
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
salt & pepper
1 package cream cheese
Any extra seasonings or herbs you like.

1. Finely chop both garlic and onions, then put into a bowl with the beef and eggs. 

2. Add some sauce and seasonings of your choice to the bowl, along with a generous amount of bread crumbs. Combine with your bare hands, really well, until everything is evenly mixed. (If too dry, add more sauce.)

3. Halve and seed the jalapenos, (as many as you like, to your taste) and then finely chop them.

4. In a separate bowl, add one package of cream cheese and the tiny jalapenos. Mix to combine!

5. On a plate (or wax paper) flatten some of the meat and form it into a bowl shape. Fill the bowl with the jalapeno cream cheese mixture. Then, take another handful of meat and flatten it on top. Seal it up tight! Continue this until all the meat/cream cheese is used up.

6. Preheat a grill to hot, and cook the burgers to your personal preference. ENJOY!